I was planning to go to the San Juan Islands with my son this week. He changed his plans at the last minute and decided not to go. That was a bummer. The marine forecast was ideal, Cathleen had a busy home schedule, and the crabbing season was opening in a few days. As Jack Bauer on 24 would say, “I don’t have a choice” but to go it alone.
Single-handedly leaving the dock is not difficult in calm weather. But to be safe, while secure at the dock I tied the lines so I could release them to get under way without getting off the boat. It would be a disaster if I untied Fiddler while standing on the dock and the wind carried the boat too far away for me to get back on. It worked well and away I went to Port Ludlow.
As I slowly motored into Port Ludlow Bay expecting to anchor near its head, I noticed the MBYC dock was empty. Maybe I should tie to the dock instead of anchoring. I debated with myself. It is much easier to leave in the morning tied to the dock, plus I would have water and power overnight. No need to run the generator to recharge the batteries. But nobody is there to help me with lines. Then again, nobody is there to see me if I screw it up either. On most afternoons the wind blows toward the dock. Today was no exception. So I positioned Fiddler alongside the dock and let the wind gently push it the last few feet and hold it against the dock while I secured the lines. That was easy. I washed down the boat and plugged into power for the night. Nothing left to do but have dinner and a drink, not necessarily in that order.
The very calm sea conditions persisted throughout the following day as I crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the San Juan Islands, stopping at one of my favorite anchorages in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.
I had a couple of days before the season opened to find a likely good crabbing location. I knew the usual popular spots would be crammed with traps and boats hovering around watching their traps so they are not stolen. Yes, that happens unfortunately. It’s hectic and stressful in those areas and I didn’t plan to be there. I searched the area charts for a sandy seabed in 40-70 feet that had a gradual slope, good conditions for crabs.
This area in Deer Harbor was a good candidate. The S Sh that I circled on the chart means that the seabed is Sand and Shells. The wider contour lines indicate a gradual slope.
I moved over to Deer Harbor and anchored in the bay. There are two marinas in Deer Harbor, a popular place for recreational boaters. MBYC has an outstation there and it was predictably overcrowded with boats rafted to each other. Not very fun in my opinion, having to climb over another boat or two to get to the dock, or having someone climb over my boat. Then add pets, kids, and people with impaired mobility to the mix and it becomes chaos. It’s stressful just to think about. So I avoid rafting on the outstation docks. Cathleen and I prefer the serenity of anchoring and taking the dingy or kayak to shore when necessary.
I took the dinghy to the marina gas dock and while there I saw this egg yolk jellyfish. I have never seen one of these before.
I have two crab traps, one with 50 feet and one with 75 feet of leaded line. Using leaded line that sinks helps keep it out of the way of boat propellers. Chicken legs and thighs are good for bait. Salmon heads are good too, but any part of a halibut is not. Halibut is a natural predator of crabs so they avoid the bait. Here is my arsenal.
I put out the traps at just before low tide and left them for two hours. I’ve read that the best time to crab is over a change of tide. I assume the scent of the bait drifts one way, then another and attracts the most number of crabs. It’s always exciting pulling them up to check, especially when they are heavy. This time one trap had four keepers and the other had one, which was the daily limit. So I was happy with that.
After cleaning them, they are cooked and then the meat is picked from the shell and frozen. This haul produced over two pounds of crab meat! The total process from start to finish is usually 4-6 hours. A couple of 24 quotes apply here too, “we are out of time”, “Dammit!”
I finished the process and then moved to Hunter Bay on the SE of Lopez Island in order to be staged for an early morning crossing of the Strait. This bay is fairly well protected and offers nice scenery as well.
Crossing the Strait was uneventful and after an intervening stop at Port Ludlow, I was back home. Since I was single-handing, I called the marina and requested help with the lines for docking. Although I missed having my son along, the trip was fun and productive! And I didn’t “need a hacksaw”. Here is the map of the trip.